Within moments of stepping into the grand doors of Le Petit Palais for the COP21: Earth to Paris event, a gust of innovation and a spirit for change was quickly noticeable. Standing next to the likes of environmental activist Alec Baldwin, Secretary of State John Kerry, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and renowned primatologist Jane Goodall was both humbling and frightening. The question quickly hit me: What am I doing here?

December 8, 2015 | Why I’m Hopeful at COP21

As I sit in Le Petit Palais at the UN Foundation’s “Earth to Paris” — a convergence of influential climate speakers — it doesn’t feel so petit to me. Pink lights cascade across the ornate and painted ceiling, which looms dozens of feet high. Voices of inspiration reverberate through the hall as speakers address eager ears, all talking about the importance of climate action.

A new voice emerged at COP for the low-lying island nations subject to the immediate effects of climate change, and it’s 18-year-old Aussie-Filipino poet Eunice Andrada.

The teenager is one of a team of four poets who travelled to Paris for COP21 from the islands of Samoa, the Philippines, the Marshall Islands, and Guam to tell their nations’ stories of climate change in a voice that may speak louder than delegations, legal jargon, and policy positions can. 

It’s 7:30 pm in Denver, CO, where my Iceland Air flight took off from a few hours ago. After we land, I’ll have a brief stopover in Reykjavik en route to Paris, France. Following years of unsuccessful climate change conferences and the tragic and barbaric attacks on Paris a few weeks ago that almost brought the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) to a halt before it’d even begun, the world waits with bated breath to see what will come of these ever-important climate change negotiations.

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